Top New York firm Cravath Swaine & Moore is losing one of its most senior M&A partners to investment bank Chase Manhattan.
Highly-rated Rob Kindler is leaving to become a managing director at Chase Manhattan, and will be charged with helping to bring in the mega-merger deals that have so far eluded the bank.
Recognised as one of Cravath's top takeover lawyers, Kindler has been with the firm for 20 years and has advised on some of its biggest deals.
Kindler was counsel to Time Warner on its pending $165bn (£109bn) merger with America Online (AOL) and WorldCom on its planned $115bn (£76bn) acquisition of Sprint Corp. He also advised Worldcom in its $37bn (£24bn) successful unsolicited acquisition of MCI, and Lycos on its $12.5bn (£8bn) merger with Terra Networks.
On the AOL Time Warner deal he helped negotiate a $35m (£23m) fee for Cravath, believed to be the biggest ever legal fee for a merger.
He is understood to have been earning $2.5m (£1.6m) a year at the firm.
London partner David Brownwood says: "We are very sorry to lose Rob but at the same time we are delighted that he is going to a very good client of ours.
"We hope we will still have the opportunity to work with him for many years to come."
Tipped as a possible successor to Cravath's presiding partner Bob Joffe, Kindler is one of very few partners to leave the firm, which has a "best friend" relationship with Slaughter and May in London.
But Chase Manhattan is aggressively trying to expand its investment banking operation in the hope of rivalling Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, and says that it is trying to attract more top lawyers.